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October 22, 2012

Washington Man

“ABSTRACT: PROFILE of Jeff Connaughton and his experiences as a political insider in Washington. In his late twenties, Connaughton, who grew up in Alabama, left a job in finance to start a career in politics. Connaughton began by working on the 1988 presidential campaign of Senator Joe Biden, whom he had come to admire as a college student, as a fund-raiser; later, he became a staffer for Biden, researching policy issues. He went to law school, then clerked for Abner Mikva, who at the time was the chief judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals. When Mikva was named Bill Clinton’s counsel, Connaughton moved with him to the White House; when Mikva quit, Connaughton worked for a time at Covington & Burling, a Washington law firm, before leaving to work for Jack Quinn, a lobbyist. Connaughton eventually became vice-chairman at Quinn Gillespie, a highly successful lobbying firm known for working with both Democratic and Republican clients. He became well-connected and prospered financially, and thought of himself as a Professional Democrat, one of the lobbyists, lawyers, advisers, consultants, pundits, and fixers who shuttle between jobs predicated on corporate cash and increasingly prominent positions in Democratic Party politics. After the financial crisis happened in 2008, he left lobbying, eventually going to work as the chief of staff for his friend Ted Kaufman, who had inherited Joe Biden’s senate seat. Connaughton, angry at Wall Street, worked with Kaufman to try and pass financial reform legislation. The legislation they drafted was either ineffective or failed to pass. Disillusioned and exhausted, Connaughton left politics and moved to Savannah, Georgia, where he wrote a book about his experiences called “The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins.””

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